Dietary supplements are not better than statins for heart disease

statins supplements

As I wrote previously, statins are important in preventing cardiovascular disease and mortality, but people continue to push dietary supplements as a better alternative to statins. Well, a new study blows that claim out of the water — statins are better for your cardiovascular health than dietary supplements.

I keep writing about supplements, and rarely do I find powerful, robust, and repeated evidence that supplements have any positive effect on one’s health. Occasionally, some research might show a small clinical benefit, but mostly, taking supplements means you have very expensive urine since most of it is removed by your kidneys.

As most of you who read this blog know that I love reviewing these articles, so you have the bullet points for the results. Of course, the article is linked, so you can get into the weeds if you want. Here we go.

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Echinacea — the science and myths in treating the common cold

echinacea

I recently wrote about pseudoscientific treatments for colds and flu, but I wanted to focus on one of the more popular treatments — echinacea. The history and science of echinacea treating these wintertime diseases are almost laughable. But you know how pseudoscience and supplements go together, and here we are.

I’m going to review the history of the herbal supplement along with the science of its safety and effectiveness. The history is quite amusing. And science is definitely lacking.

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Omega-3 supplements have little effect on cardiovascular disease and mortality

omega-3 supplements

This article about omega-3 supplements is a companion piece to my recent article about fatty fish and cardiovascular disease. There is little evidence that two servings of fatty fish, which are filled with omega-3, have any effect on the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

I have been skeptical of supplements for a long period of time. Supplements are generally of low quality, they don’t prevent or cure cancer, they don’t prevent colds, they can’t boost the immune system, and they don’t prevent heart disease. Now there is a powerful review of omega-3 supplements that shows that it has little effect on cardiovascular disease.

Unless one has a chronic disease or is chronically malnourished, there are precious few instances where supplements are necessary. A couple of cases where supplements may be critical include prenatal folic acid supplements to prevent neurological defects in the developing fetus, vitamin C to prevent scurvy, and vitamin D supplements for individuals who do not produce enough endogenous vitamin D. In each of these cases, however, supplements are necessary to counteract a micronutrient deficiency that results from a chronic deficiency in the diet.

The benefits of omega-3 supplements have always been intriguing to me because it is one supplement that I thought might be useful for improving cardiovascular health based on some clinical evidence. But as I reviewed before, the evidence seemed awfully weak. With this new study, there may be no evidence whatsoever supporting the use of omega-3 supplements, at least for cardiovascular disease.

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Vitamin C does not prevent or treat cancer — let’s end this myth

vitamin c cancer

One of the frequently made claims from the alternative medicine world is that vitamin C prevents cancer. Or cures cancer. But is there any real science behind vitamin C and cancer?

Of course, there are over hundreds of different cancers, each with a different etiology, pathophysiology, and prognosis, so it’s rather difficult to believe that vitamin C has that much effect on any of those cancers. But the claims, and their adherents, persist despite the lack of robust evidence supporting these claims.

Frankly, there are just a handful of ways to prevent cancer. One of those ways, eating a balanced diet, implies consuming appropriate amounts of nutrients, like vitamin C, I suppose. But does it mean that taking a handful of vitamin C tablets has some beneficial effect on cancer prevention or treatment? Well, let’s take a look.

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What are the links between vitamin D and COVID?

vitamin D COVID-19

Across the internet, I keep reading about some relationships between vitamin D levels and COVID-19. I’ve written about it twice (here and here), but I have never seen reliable, robust, and repeated clinical trial data that supports a link between vitamin D levels or deficiencies and COVID-19.

So, I thought I would take a look at it once again, and see if there’s anything there. I keep wondering if vitamin D is just another “miracle supplement” that, once you scratch the surface of data, you find that there is actually nothing there.

What we know or think we know about COVID-19 seems to change daily, partially because the disease caught us by surprise. But every day we seem to get new data that contradicts something we thought or adds to our knowledge of the disease. And sometimes both.

Let’s take a look at the current data on vitamin D and COVID-19.

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Contaminated supplements – spiked with potentially dangerous ingredients

contaminated supplements

The supplement industry is huge and unregulated. Worldwide annual supplement sales exceed US$151 billion, yet contaminated supplements are part of the industry’s method to make their mostly useless products appear to have some clinical effect.

There is growing evidence that these contaminated supplements contain unlabeled ingredients that are found in regulated pharmaceuticals – all without telling the consumer about them. Or testing them. Or listing warnings for their use.

Let’s take a look at Big Supplement, and what’s going on with contaminated supplements.

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Big supplement profits – making boatloads of money in the name of pseudoscience

big supplement

I occasionally have to defend vaccine profits (or the lack thereof), but everyone seems to ignore Big Supplement profits which are far larger than vaccine profits. And vaccines have real science backing them, which is not a statement you can make about Big Supplement.

Let’s take a moment and look at the revenues and profits of Big Pharma (and a bit of Big Vaccine) and Big Supplement. The former has to work hard and provide evidence of what its drugs do, while the latter basically can sit around and throw darts at various claims, then randomly assign those claims to some new or old supplement.

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Vitamin C for sepsis study may be fraudulent — data was too perfect

photo of orange fruit on plate

As you all know, I am a skeptic of almost all supplements, and I never thought that using vitamin C for sepsis was supported by robust and repeated data. Well, an analysis by an Australian physician, statistician, and Ph.D. student may have found fraudulent data, and it’s becoming a topic of conversation among physicians who have used the protocol to treat sepsis.

Let’s take a peek at this story since it is so amazing because this shows how science really works.

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Vitamin D supplements — evidence about safety and effectiveness

vitamin D supplements

The claims about the usefulness of vitamin D supplements are all over the internet. And they seem trendy, especially with COVID-19, even though much of the evidence is extraordinarily weak.

The purpose of this article is to review some of the old and new information about vitamin D supplements. It’s about scientific articles that either support or refute a claim, that’s it. It’s not about what we believe or we do not believe, it’s about evidence.

I don’t think vitamin D is worthless. It is an important micronutrient for human health, and if someone has a chronic deficiency, supplementation may be medically necessary.

On the other hand, proponents of megadoses of vitamins, called megavitamin therapy or orthomolecular medicine (pseudoscientific terms to sound like they are based on real science), seem to work on the unscientific belief that if a little dose helps, a whole boatload dose will help a lot more. Most of these ideas have been debunked and are considered quackery and fads.

I wanted to take a look at the science of vitamin D supplements while examining their actual benefits to health compared to the possible dangers of excess supplementation.

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Vitamin D deficiency could increase susceptibility to severe COVID

spilled bottle of yellow capsule pills

A new study seems to indicate that individuals with vitamin D deficiencies are more susceptible to severe COVID-19 outcomes. This does not mean that lots of vitamin D can prevent COVID-19 or prevent severe COVID in people with normal vitamin D levels, but it does indicate that this could be an easy way to reduce the risk of severe COVID-19.

I know I have a reputation of being “anti-supplement,” but I usually always write “supplements are useless unless there is a chronic medical condition that requires the supplement.” If you’re not getting any vitamin C in your diet, you can be at risk of scurvy, so taking vitamin C supplements is appropriate. If you are pregnant, folic acid supplements are important to reduce the risk of neural tube defects in your fetus.

The evidence for vitamin D and COVID-19 has been all over the place. Sometimes, I feel that vitamin D is the new great supplement to treat everything. I tend to be skeptical of supplements because they are overhyped. And too many people believe if a small amount does this, then a whole bunch of the supplement ought to boost your immune system or something. All it does is make us have very expensive urine.

Let’s take a look at this new paper. I think it sets out an evidence-based understanding of what vitamin D may do to reduce the risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes.

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